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18-08-29 Matt Nagy

Image Credit: apnews.com

The accepted general schedule of an NFL pre-season has week three as the dress rehearsal for the starters, which is what I confidently stated last week so it’s nice to be completely tripped up by the second game I watched of the week three slate.

The Chicago Bears hosted the Kansas City Chiefs and Mat Nagy had already called Chiefs head coach to warn him that the Bears would be sitting their starters earlier in the week so whilst I got to see plenty of the Chiefs’ new starter Patrick Mahomes, the Bears’ Mitch Trubisky did not start much to my surprise as I had not seen the news before I sat down to watch the game. The two shining stars for the Bears offence for me was Chase Daniel who looked the best I had seen him all pre-season and seventh round receiver Javon Wims, who caught four balls for one hundered and fourteen yards and a touchdown. There is further good news in that the offence generally looked good in this game and the Bears ran out 27-20 winners to take their pre-season record to 2-2. Wins are not the focus while the teams prepare for the regular season but after losing their first two pre-season games the Bears will appreciate wining two on the bounce and they will have got extended looks at players further down the roster with the approach of Nagy.

The head coach of the Bears argued the decision was about workload and keeping players healthy for the start of the season and reading Nagy’s comments he seems to have thought it through and he’s not the only coach who’s thinking like that as the Rams starters have apparently barely played this pre-season either. The quote that caught my eye was that ‘… if we win that game against Green Bay, trust me, it wasn’t because we didn’t play 25 [snaps today]. And if we lose it, it’s the same thing. I promise you that.’ I find it interesting as whilst I believe that he thinks this is true, the press are going to ask questions if they do lose. The one thing from this that I think should cheer them is that their new head coach is doing things his way and I always think that’s a positive as you’ll find out more quickly if they are on the right track or not. I’m not sure if the Bears’ defence is going to live up to last year’s ranking of fourteenth by DVOA but I do think their offence will be better than twenty-eighth as long as they’re not overwhelmed by injury

As for the Chiefs, whilst Mahomes will not be as efficient as Alex Smith he will make plays with his remarkable arm and I suspect they are in for a very entertaining season. I have a lot of respect for Andy Reid who seems to be a consistently underrated coach even if the criticism of his clock management is warranted. The defence has been overhauled with several pass rushers moving on as well as cornerback Marcus Peters being traded so I’m curious to see if they can step up from their ranking of thirtieth by DVOA. But with Reid’s offence it won’t take much of an improvement to make the Chiefs pretty scary in the AFC, it just depends how ready Mahomes is after sitting for nearly all of his rookie year.

My final game of week three saw the Cincinnati Bengals travel to the Buffalo Bills and Andy Dalton likely be the first opposition quarterback to get a standing ovation from a crowd for his part in the winning play against the Baltimore Ravens last season that saw the Bills finally break their playoff drought.

Unfortunately for the Bills, Dalton looked sharp in what likely will be his final extended run of minutes in the pre-season and started as he meant to go on with a touchdown pass to John Ross of fifty-seven yards as the second year receiver sprinted past the Bills’ defence and then shuffled into the end zone. The Bengals have a lot of players showing flashes in the skill positions and even Tyler Eifort was out there as he tries to make another come back from injury. I still have concerns over the offensive line and the rushing attack has not convinced me yet but I feel like the Bengals have a lot of potential on offence for the coming season.

As for the defence, if the pass rush last year was good it may well be even better this year and Josh Allen spent a lot of time running away from marauding defensive lineman or getting sacked. In fact the Bengals’ defence finished with six sacks and ten quarterback hits. The Bengals also just signed Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap to contract extensions of four and three years respectively. They may not have got the turnovers that have been the focus of the offseason, but it feels like the defence is shaping up nicely and I kept spotting new signing middle-linebacker Preston Brown around the ball in the first half. My concern would be the run defence, which has never been the same since they let Domata Peko walk in free agency two years ago but I think having a more settled rotation might help. Needless to say I shall be watching closely over the coming weeks.

Whilst Josh Allen spent a lot of his game escaping pressure and trying not to turn the ball over, the infamous Nathan Peterman moved the team well and as threw for two hundred yard and a touchdown. There was talk on the commentary that there were some around the Bill who thought Peterman was moving the ball better in practice than injured starter AJ McCarron. After the disastrous five interception half Peterman had last season when he was made starter over Tyrod Taylor (a decision I still find somewhat inexplicable) it is good to see him moving the ball with the offence and given the problems the Bills are having with their offensive line, I do wonder if he might be an early starter to buy Josh Allen some more time to acclimatise to the NFL. Whoever starts, as the Bills continue to overhaul their team it looks like they might be taking a step back this year as they consolidate after Sean McDermott’s first season as head coach. I’m hesitant to write them off completely just because apart from his handling of Tyrod Taylor I was impressed with the job McDermott did in his first season, but after this offseason I think there are too many questions around their roster and in particular the offensive line.

So that’s it, one pre-season game left where the players at the bottom of the depth chart will be fighting to make a roster and then next week we will be looking forward to the start of another NFL season.

I am very much looking forward to it.

Only two more weeks until coaching tape.